Study Guide

Purgatorio Purgatory Canto XXVII (the Seventh Terrace: the Lustful)

By Dante Alighieri

Purgatory Canto XXVII (the Seventh Terrace: the Lustful)

  • According to the sky, it s almost sunset and our heroes hurry ahead.
  • Luckily, they soon meet the last angel, the Angel of Chastity. He sings the Sixth Beatitude, “Beati mundo corde,” which translates as “Blessed are the pure of heart.”
  • He then tells them that they can't move forward until they’ve gone through the fire of the Lustful. He urges them to proceed and to listen for the song in the flames.
  • At this, Dante becomes frozen with fear. He lifts his hands to block the flames from his face. We don’t blame him.
  • Virgil and Statius try to calm him, reminding him that there is no possibility of death here. Virgil reminds Dante of their mutual trust, built up by riding on Geryon’s back in Hell (check out Shmoop's coverage of Inferno), and he tells Dante that this close to God, he will be even more faithful.
  • He promises Dante that the flames will not harm him and urges Dante to put his hands in to prove it.
  • But Dante, for once in his life, stands his ground.
  • Perplexed, Virgil tries a different tactic. He coyly tells Dante that Beatrice is waiting on the other side.
  • At that name, Dante opens his eyes, just as the dying Pyramus did to see his beloved Thisbe.
  • With that, Virgil plunges into the fire, followed by Statius. Dante follows.
  • As he walks through, he thinks man, it’s hot!... so much so that he’d rather throw himself on molten glass to try to find some coolness.
  • But Virgil is at his side, constantly reminding him of Beatrice.
  • At the same time, an angelic voice sings a hymn, "Venite, benedicti Patris mei,” which translates as “Come, ye blessed of my father.” Dante follows the sound out of the fire.
  • The angel’s voice tells them to hurry onward as soon as they’re out of the fire (no rest for the weary) because the sun will set soon.
  • They hurriedly climb a staircase of rock, but they’ve only gone a few steps before the sun sets, as evidenced as Dante’s vanishing shadow.
  • The travelers drop down to make their beds on the stony steps, unable to climb further.
  • As they rest, Dante compares himself to a goat guarded by two herdsmen. Okay, now we see some trust-building.
  • As he’s falling asleep, Dante looks at the stars, which seem so much bigger at this altitude. That’s his last waking thought.
  • In his sleep, he dreams. He sees a pretty young lady gathering flowers along a field and singing. She sings that her name is Leah and that she loves to make flower garlands. Her sister is Rachel and she likes to sit all day in front of a mirror. Where Rachel takes delight in seeing, Leah loves to labor.
  • Quick background: in the Bible, Jacob loves Rachel and works as her father’s servant for seven years to earn her hand in marriage. On their wedding night, the father substitutes his older daughter Leah for Rachel and forces Jacob to work seven more years before he’ll give him Rachel as well.
  • In the meantime, Leah bears Jacob seven children, whereas Rachel only gives him two. Thus, Leah is often considered an exemplar of the active life, while Rachel is the paragon for the contemplative life.
  • When Dante wakes up, he finds his two guides already awake.
  • Virgil announces that today Dante's desires will be fulfilled. Ooh, what does that mean? Beatrice? Is it Beatrice?
  • Dante’s joy is so great that he climbs really quickly because his feet are as light as wings.
  • When he reaches the top step of the staircase, Virgil turns to him and tells him how proud he is. We all tear up.
  • More to the point, Virgil tells Dante that so far he has been guided only by “intellect and art” (for which Virgil is the symbol), but that now Dante's mental love has been perfected and turned to God, so that it’s safe for him to follow his own pleasure now. He urges Dante to explore the Earthly Paradise until he meets Beatrice. Before sending him off, Virgil blesses him with these words: “there I crown and miter you over yourself.”